What started as a family-owned bread company in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1991 is today a thriving, artisan Italian cracker company that sells gourmet products around the world.
La Panzanella’s international success is, in part, thanks to their participation in USDA-endorsed international food and beverage trade shows, which is one way that USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) helps U.S. companies increase international sales.
In 1997, La Panzanella’s focus shifted from baking bread to making and selling croccantini, which is a thin, rustic cracker made from authentic Italian recipes and all-natural ingredients.
In 2001, the company introduced their crackers at a major U.S. food event—the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) Fancy Food Show—where they won the prize for best new product. After this recognition, croccantini became a hit with hotel chefs, upscale grocery stores and consumers nationwide. La Panzanella went on to receive NASFT honors in 2002, 2004 and 2007.
While this small business was making waves in the United States, they had their sights set on expanding their sales internationally. This is when they turned to FAS for support. Five years ago, La Panzanella began participating in USDA-endorsed international trade shows.
Their participation in these shows was made possible in part by USDA’s partner, the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA), which provided partial funding to offset the company’s exhibition costs. WUSATA is a non-profit organization that promotes the export of food and agricultural products from the Western region of the United States with funding from USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP). USDA’s international market development programs, such as MAP, are playing a significant role in the surging demand for the American brand of agriculture around the world. (In fact, an independent study released in 2010 found that for every $1 expended by government and industry on market development, U.S. food and agricultural exports increase by $35.)
This year alone, La Panzanella has featured products at two food shows in the United Kingdom, five shows in Canada and one in Germany. In the coming year, they’re already scheduled to exhibit at shows in the U.K., Japan, Singapore, Canada, Australia and Paris.
Beyond helping them secure a spot at the USA pavilion at these shows, FAS also helps companies set up meetings with various business contacts, importers and distributers.
While La Panzanella is relatively new to international exports, 5 percent of their sales come from international markets, which is higher than average. Only 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and yet 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the borders of the United States.
Currently, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.9 billion. And USDA’s international market development programs have supported this success.